Lutheran leaders study ecumenism

 — Apr. 19, 199619 avril 1996

CHICAGO (ELCA) — The 5.2 million members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are gearing up to make some major decisions in 1997 about how they will relate to another 67.3 million Christians in the United States. The ELCA Church Council, meeting here April 12-15, studied proposals regarding closer relations with the Roman Catholic Church, Episcopal Church and three Reformed churches — Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church in America and United Church of Christ.

“The council began to take ownership of the decisions coming before us in 1997 regarding the ecumenical proposals,” said Kathy J. Magnus, Denver, ELCA vice president and council chair. “The council spent about five hours in conversation.”

In 1997 the ELCA Churchwide Assembly will address proposals for establishing full communion with the Episcopal Church and Reformed churches and a proposal that the Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches each declare the 16th-century condemnations they leveled against each other on the doctrine of justification no longer apply.

The ELCA Church Council is the church’s chief legislative body between biennial churchwide assemblies. At this mid-point between assemblies the council was able to spend more time discussing the future of the church, said Magnus, than voting on business items.

ELCA Bishop H. George Anderson reminded the council that the proposals do not require any churches to merge. “They ask that we recognize in print what we probably all believe in our hearts — that we are not the only church body with the truth,” he said. “It sounds simple, yet the twists and turns of history have carried us so far from one another that we don’t recognize the same faith in each other when we meet.”

Full communion with the Reformed churches would complement the ministry of the Lutheran church, said the Rev. Guy S. Edmiston Jr., Harrisburg, Pa., bishop of the ELCA Lower Susquehanna Synod and Lutheran co-chair of the Lutheran-Reformed Coordinating Committee.

He summarized several decades of talks among the church bodies and how they resulted in “A Common Calling” and “Formula of Agreement” — documents that outline the implications of full communion between the Lutheran and Reformed churches.

Full communion between the Lutheran and Episcopal churches would further the “interim eucharistic sharing” the bodies have enjoyed for 14 years, said the Rev. Richard L. Jeske, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Saratoga, Calif., and Lutheran co- chair of the Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee.

He traced 27 years of U.S. dialogues to documents defining the Lutheran-Episcopal proposal — “Toward Full Communion” and “Concordat of Agreement.” Jeske explained that the two churches have never issued condemnations against one another.

The council heard a report from one of its members, Terry L. Bowes, Longmont, Colo., who had attended a recent meeting of its counterpart in the Episcopal Church — the Executive Council. It also welcomed as visitors the Rev. David Perry, ecumenical and interfaith relations officer of the Episcopal Church, New York, and the Rev. Sue Reid, canon for educational and spiritual formation, Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis.

The Rev. Daniel F. Martensen, director of the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs, reported on international efforts to draft exact wording for the Lutheran-Roman Catholic proposal, which will also be considered in July 1997 at the Lutheran World Federation Assembly in Hong Kong.

The 37-member Church Council divided itself into five small groups to discuss the “critical issues” of the ecumenical proposals. The notes of their discussions were given to Bishop Anderson, the ELCA’s chief ecumenical officer.

“Most of the questions the council raised were with the `nuts and bolts'” rather than with challenging whole documents, said Magnus. Some of the questions that asked were: What will happen if the 1997 assembly votes for the proposals? How will this affect congregations? How will clergy transfer between church bodies? How will discipline be carried out, if necessary?

The opposite concerns were also discussed, she said. “What happens if indeed the 1997 assembly of the ELCA would vote these recommendations down? What would that do to the ecumenical relationships with these other church bodies?”

Council members expressed the need for similar deliberations among the millions of Christians the decisions may affect, said Magnus. “This is not an issue that a lot of people enter into very easily, because it can be a very technical theological discussion.”

In business, the council elected Martensen as director of the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs. He was associate director for ecumenical and interfaith dialogue since 1988 and had served as acting director since Oct. 31.

The council also elected 15 ELCA members to serve a four- year term in the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.: ELCA Bishop H. George Anderson, Chicago; the Rev. David Andert, Duluth, Minn.; the Rev. James Echols, Philadelphia; Bishop Jon Enslin, Madison, Wis.; Heidi Helgemo, Eagan, Minn.; the Rev. Y. Franklin Ishida, Elmhurst, Ill.; the Rev. Bonnie Jensen, Chicago; Brian King, Dubuque, Iowa; Ryan LaHurd, Hickory, N.C.; the Rev. Barbara Lundblad, New York; Mary Hull Mohr, Decorah, Iowa; the Rev. Thomas Prinz, Alexandria, Va.; Desiree Quintana, Cambridge, Mass.; Hazel Steward, Chicago; and the Rev. Stephen Youngdahl, Austin, Texas.

For information contact:
Ann Hafften, Dir., ELCA News Service, (312) 380-2958;
Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Dir., (312) 380-2955;
Lia Christiansen, Asst. Dir., (312) 380-2956

Posted: Apr. 19, 1996 • Permanent link:
Categories: ELCA NewsIn this article: Christian unity, ecumenism, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran
Transmis : 19 avril 1996 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : ELCA NewsDans cet article : Christian unity, ecumenism, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran

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